Prime Cuts: Warriors, Won't He Do it, Down Goes Rome
Overall grade: 4/5
Contestants of singing competitions shows often get unfairly caricatured into karaoke singers. And when they released their own albums, fans and critics alike hope they can replicate the same kind of cover songs that first brought them to fame. Three years after appearing on "The Voice," finalist Koryn Hawthorne has finally released her debut full-length album via RCA Inspiration. Refusing to be re-packaged into an updated karaoked version of Ariana Grande or Alicia Keys, Hawthorne has delivered an out-of-the-box collection of freshly written songs. Daring, unpredictable, and fluid enough that she doesn't fall into the mire of genre specification, these 10 songs contain a cacophony of jazz, pop, Gospel and even hard rock. Nevertheless, what is unadulterated is the lyrical content. Hawthorne is never ambiguous in her explicitly God-centered lyrics, such as, you don't have to guess if a "he" in a song refers to a human beau or Jesus.
Opening with distorted Led Zeppelin-esque electric guitar riffs before exploding into a booming anthemic chorus, "Warriors" shows that white guys are not the only ones who know a thing or two about rock n'roll. Sandwiched between this refreshing tune is an empowering message about ignoring the 'enemy' and our need to be 'iconic.' Currently the reigning #1 song, "Won't He Do it" is this generation's "Shackles (Praise You)." Instantaneously gratifying with a groove that stays with you all day, surrender to Jesus has never sounded more palatable. With "Down Goes Rome," creativity gets the overdrive where hues of old spirituals, rock, opera, and rock all get intertwined.
More mainstream is the duet with Natalie Grant "Speak the Name." As octave stretching as Hawthorne's vocals are, Natalie Grant shows that she can compete note for note on this soaring power ballad. With the touching "You Still Love Me," we get to hear Hawthorne's heart as she revels in Christ's love despite her weaknesses and failings. Though it doesn't have much of a sustainable melody, "Bless Up," sounds like a blast from the 70s days of Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder, save for the plush beats,
Showcasing that she's not a one trick pony, Hawthorne indulges in some Lauryn Hill-esque frothy R&B with "Reasons." With a carefree buoyancy, we are again impressed by Hawthorne's ease at adaptability. However one is not sure why J. Monty's cocky rap is included, the song would have excelled with Hawthorne alone. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, this record is exceptional. It shows how guts, creativity, versatility can all put their heads together and create a product that is actually worth listening to, repeatedly.